|Health services treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic
Like many of you, WCB Nova Scotia has been responding and adapting to COVID-19, and what it means for delivery of services, and we are committed to continuing to deliver service during these challenging times.
While case conferences, visits from WCB representatives, and other such in-person services have been postponed, it’s very important to note that our operations continue, simply being delivered remotely. We understand our service provider partners share our desire to continue to support workers and employers in recovery and return-to-work, and we appreciate your efforts and collaboration.
Our expectation is that approved health care providers will adhere to provincial and national directives, privacy, safety, and discipline-specific standards, which are outlined by respective governing professional bodies in the delivery of service.
The following questions and answers are intended to provide guidance and direction during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will change as the situation evolves.
Q&A updated: Thursday, March 26
Can service providers offer teleconferencing or video conferencing services to workers?
WCB Nova Scotia is supportive of remote service delivery during COVID-19 pandemic, where:
• it is aligned with the treatment program approved by the Case Worker;
• it adheres to professional standards of the provider's governing body, such as safety, ethics, confidentiality, privacy, etc;
• there is no recording made of the call or conference;
• there is no storage or record of personally identifying information (name, SIN, or health details for example) or upload of documents in the conferencing tool;
• Canadian privacy and hosting parameters are strictly followed; and
• the participants consent is obtained, and they are able to safely do so, logistically.
As usual, any treatment plan to promote recovery and return-to-work requires Case Worker approval. Please contact the Case Worker to discuss alternate, remote delivery options, such as tele-health.
WCB is unable to validate each provider's chosen conferencing tool or security configuration. Ultimately, the service provider is accountable to ensure they meet the professional standards of tele-health service delivery, as outlined by their respective governing body. WCB retains the ability to adjust approval of methods of service delivery ongoing, and any changes will be communicated.
If I close my tiered clinic and provide workers with a home exercise program, what do I need to do?
If you are closing, please send a secure message to the Case Worker for each worker, informing them of the closure of the clinic.
If a service provider location closes, can a worker choose another location that is still open?
The service provider should contact the Case Worker to discuss alternate location options or treatment methods to ensure the appropriate services can continue, and to get approval.
Are reports and other supporting documentation still required?
If you are treating a worker either in-person or remotely, yes, reports and other documentation supporting treatment and return-to-work planning are still required. This in in accordance with the terms of existing contracts, to support ongoing case management. If your clinic is closed, and treatment is no longer occurring either in-person or remotely, do not submit reports or other documentation.
WCB Nova Scotia services continue, simply delivered by distance where possible. Case Workers are available remotely and are continuing to support workers and employers.
How will invoices be paid during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Invoice payments are being processed, so please submit them as usual. Our services continue, simply delivered by distance where possible. Service Providers can continue to mail or fax invoices for payment, however for privacy reasons, do not e-mail invoices.
We know that recent changes to our system, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, are causing some delays in payment processing, and we continue to address those.
Can service providers bill for extra fees for delivering alternate methods of service and treatment?
Any service approval is always in the context of the Case Worker’s approval of a treatment and recovery plan.
Existing standard rates will apply, provided the service offered meets the goals of the approved treatment program and is within the existing contract terms.
The service provider will assume financial responsibility for additional costs to set up alternate treatment delivery methods and these costs will not be transferred to WCB, workers, or employers.
If services are able to be offered remotely, they must follow the criteria above, be within a treatment plan promoting recovery and return-to-work, and have the approval of the Case Worker. WCB is not reviewing fee schedules at this time, but as per the existing contract terms, standard fees and program parameters will apply.
These are general principles applied in unprecedented times. WCB will continue to monitor the progression of COVID-19, and we will evolve our approach as required.
WCB Nova Scotia maintains the ability to adjust rates ongoing, and any changes will be communicated.
Will workers still receive benefits if they choose not to attend treatment, including tele-health treatment?
Some physiotherapy clinics and other health services offices and facilities are choosing to close. Others may be operating on a reduced basis with different delivery options. Other times, workers may not be comfortable attending appointments, or are self isolating for various reasons.
In these very unique circumstances, benefit payments will not be impacted by the inability for a treatment to be provided, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Can a Tier 1 practitioner perform a physical assessment or functional evaluation with a worker over the phone or using video chat?
Services such as physical assessments and functional evaluations may not be conducted via phone or video chat.
In accordance with contract terms with WCB, all treatment and care must be delivered following the professional standards of the provider's governing body, by the approved practitioner, and using the appropriate equipment, with a focus on supervision and safety.
Services that cannot be offered remotely are not approved by WCB, nor are the associated reports as these are only required if services are delivered.
How often should case conferences occur with tiered service providers during the COVID-19 pandemic?
It is unlikely case conferencing will be necessary while treatment is suspended, but if it is needed, tiered service providers should continue to liaise with the Case Workers to discuss appropriateness, frequency, methods (such as teleconferencing or video conferencing), and to obtain pre-approval.
In these unprecedented circumstances, contract provisions surrounding treatment timelines will be considered. Extensions to treatment programs are always with the approval with the Case Worker.
What impact do new measures announced have on WCB service providers?
WCB expects service providers follow the directives of the province’s public health officials regarding regulated health professionals.
It’s important to note that the directives do provide for virtual care in non-urgent or non-emergency situations when it is within the scope of practice established by a service provider’s governing body.
Specifically for physiotherapists, the Nova Scotia College of Physiotherapy has released care guidelines in response to help their members. As noted in the guidelines, emergency care is unlikely to apply to physiotherapy and urgent care is that which requires immediate attention. Physical assessments and functional evaluations do not meet the definition of urgent care according to the guidelines.
Service providers should adhere to measures from public health officials, the relevant governing body, as well as existing contract terms with WCB.
If you are able to offer virtual care to workers, please contact the Case Worker for approval. Services that cannot be offered remotely are not approved by WCB, nor are the associated reports as these are only required if services are delivered.